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  • This is Waladuna Mosque in Jakarta.

  • Its roof is in ruins.

  • Moss covers the walls.

  • And sea water flows through every corner of it.

  • The last time people prayed here was in 2001, back when it was above ground.

  • Today, it's a warning sign.

  • It signals what could happen to Indonesia's  capital city if things don't change soon.

  • Because, even though Jakarta faces the same sea rising levels

  • as other coastal cities around the world,

  • that's not quite what we're looking at here.

  • Jakarta is sinking. And it's been sinking for decades.

  • These blue areas show just how much  the city has sunk since the 1970s.

  • The darker the area gets, the more it's dropped.

  • Here's how much it's descended today.

  • Most of the sinking happens here, in the north coast,

  • where Jakarta meets the Java Sea.

  • Here, the land is sinking by about 25 cm a year,  

  • destabilizing the area, damaging homes,

  • and upending people's lives, over and over again.

  • Many residents here are fishermen, who need  to live by the coast to make a living,

  • but, further inland, Jakarta's more than  10 million residents are also at risk.

  • A huge portion of the city, and the homes of millions, could be underwater by 2050.

  • Jakarta sits onswampy plain, on low coastal land.

  • It has 13 rivers that drain through it.

  • But the reason the city is sinking

  • is actually that most people here don't have enough water.

  • Most Jakartans lack access to clean, piped water.

  • Instead, they get their water  by digging wells like this one.

  • The pumps go deep into the ground to  extract the water stored in aquifers,  

  • underground layers of rock that hold groundwater.

  • The porous spaces of the rock are filled with it.

  • Multiply this by a few millionand you have a problem.

  • Think of the rock as a soaked sponge:

  • the more water is extracted, the more it deflates,

  • causing the soil to compact and collapse, and the ground above it to sink.

  • Pumps alone shouldn't be able to do this.

  • While some layers of earth will never recover their water,

  • aquifers are usually refilled naturally when it rains.

  • But in Jakarta, that's becoming increasingly rare.

  • For decades, Jakarta has been developing at a fast pace,

  • and is now covered in concrete.

  • So the rainfall that would usually fill up the aquifers isn't being absorbed.

  • It's gotten so bad that in coastal areas prone to flooding,

  • like the fishing community Muara Baru,

  • people have built makeshift bridges  to move through their neighborhoods.

  • Combined with sea level rise,

  • it's also made floods during high tide and rainy seasons much more dangerous.

  • Like in 2007, when Jakarta experienced one of the worst floods

  • in its modern history.

  • A storm and high tide caused rivers and canals around the city to overflow,

  • killing 80 people.

  • Maksim has already lost his home to the sinking,

  • and now sleeps on his fishing boat.

  • And Nondho has had to rebuild his home several times.

  • Groundwater pumping is putting  Jakarta's survival at risk.

  • But to understand how it got into this situation to begin with,

  • you have to go back centuries.

  • In the 1600s, when European  powers were colonizing the world,  

  • the Dutch took over what was then  the port town of Jayakarta.

  • They razed it to the ground, and in its place, built Batavia:

  • a headquarters for their growing empire.

  • They began to rule over the Indonesian,  

  • Chinese, Indian, and Arab people  who had lived there for centuries,  

  • and built their new city in the Dutch style,

  • with narrow townhouses along a grid of canals.

  • The canals were used for trade, defenseand to make Batavia feel like a Dutch city.  

  • But look at Batavia from above,

  • and you can see the city grid served a darker purpose, too.

  • If you look closely, you'll notice  that there aren't many bridges

  • between the two sides, or between the blocks.

  • This was by design. The Dutch were outnumbered.

  • So, in order to control the local population, they divided it.

  • It looked like this.

  • Pretty much every group was confined to their city quarter.

  • The Dutch ruled over the local population like this for over a century.

  • But that began to change in the mid-1700s.

  • Because the Dutch didn't properly maintain  the canals, they began to deteriorate,  

  • and sediment from earthquakes  blocked the flow of water.

  • The water in the canals turned  stagnant, and soon, deadly.

  • As disease spread through the canals,

  • the wealthier Dutch moved south of Batavia,

  • where they began to develop a new  colonial administrative center.

  • But, despite the death and disease, the Dutch continued to leave the canals untreated.

  • Instead, they began to use piped water.

  • In the 1870s, they developed the  first centralized water supply,  

  • with iron pipes to distribute water to homes.

  • The pipes provided clean drinking  water and indoor bathrooms.

  • But the pipes were concentrated in these  areas, where the Dutch had moved to.

  • The indigenous population was left in  informal settlements, called "kampongs,"

  • far from the piped water.

  • And this created a new kind of division in the city.

  • Native residents had to rely  on street vendors for water.

  • But most often, they were forced to get  their water from the neglected canals.

  • It took decades before pipes were  finally built in these communities.

  • And when they were, it would  only be a few public standpipes.

  • This continued through 1949.

  • After an armed conflict, the Dutch finally recognized Indonesia's independence, and left.

  • The legacy they left behind was a sprawling city,

  • built on marshland, and segregated by water access,

  • that, now, Jakartans had to deal with.

  • Over the next decadesJakarta's population skyrocketed.

  • More people required more housing, more storesand more streets.

  • And the city expanded fast.

  • But its water infrastructure still  doesn't serve the majority of the city.

  • This chart shows how much of  Jakarta's population has piped water.

  • It was 12 percent in the 50s, and  is still under 50 percent today.

  • Many of the people without access to piped water

  • have no other choice but to keep pumping groundwater to survive.

  • And the city continues to sink.

  • The situation has gotten so bad,

  • the Indonesian government has talked  about moving the capital, from Jakarta,

  • to the neighboring island of Borneo.

  • But that won't help the millions  of people living in Jakarta.

  • To save the city, in 2014, the  government announced a project,  

  • in collaboration with a Dutch architecture firm,

  • to build and reinforce 120 km of seawalls,

  • to stop the water from flooding  the land as it sinks.

  • But so far, only these 10 kilometers have been reinforced.

  • Like this one in Muara Baru.

  • The problem is that, just like the rest  of Jakarta, the seawall is sinking.

  • The project also includes an ambitious $40 billion plan

  • to build a 38 km wall, shaped like a massive bird,

  • to protect the coast from flooding.

  • But this project could take  up to 30 years to complete.

  • And by then, Jakarta could have  lost most of its coastal land.

  • Jakarta will continues to sink until  groundwater stops being pumped.

  • And groundwater will continue to be pumped

  • until the government provides an alternative.

  • This has been done before. In the 1950s,

  • Tokyo managed to stop severe  sinking by providing piped water.

  • Taipei, Shanghai, Bangkokare other cities in the region  

  • that have managed to stop their cities from sinking.

  • But time is running out.

  • Jakarta has been free of Dutch rule for a little over 70 years now.

  • But the way the Dutch built their city, carved it up,

  • and restricted its water, plagues it to this day.

  • Jakarta is sinking into the sea.

  • And, until its government figures out how to provide clean, piped water for its citizens,

  • that will continue to be its reality.

  • For as long as it's still here.

This is Waladuna Mosque in Jakarta.

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Why Jakarta is sinking

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/19
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